A Sense of Integrity by Coach Keith Champion
Integrity and sportsmanship are two of the characteristics that we hope to see taught by participation in interscholastic sports. Hopefully, these character traits were first introduced in the home and then later reinforced by teachers and coaches. It is always a heartwarming event when we see the two qualities evident in athletic contests.
Sportsmanship is more than just helping someone off of the ground or shaking hands with the opponent after the game. It is not just the absence for trashing talking and finger pointing. It is finding the balance between fierce competition and fair play. It is letting your sense of doing what is right override your desire to win at all costs.
Over the past few years this column has written more than once about the virtues of good sportsmanship. Recently I heard a story that may depict sportsmanship at its best.
Andy Roddick has been one of the top U.S. tennis players for over 5 years. His serve is consistently around 150 M.P.H. and he has been an exciting young player to watch on the world’s tennis scene.
In May of 2005, Roddick was playing in the Rome Masters tennis tournament. He was the top seeded player and had worked his way to the quarter-finals. He was playing Fernando Verasco and had already won the first set 7-6. The match was set to go two out of three sets and Roddick had a comfortable 5-3 lead in the second and probably final set. Verasco was serving and the game was at triple match point. Roddick needed to win just one more point and he would win the game, the set, and the match. The next day’s semi-final match was awaiting as Verasco attempted his first serve. That first serve ended up being a fault and Roddick could sense his eminent victory. The second serve would probably not be quite as hard and Roddick would have a chance to put his opponent away with a good strong forehand.
Varasco then hit his second serve and it appeared he had double faulted. The line judge called the ball out, giving Roddick the victory. But Andy Roddick saw the ball mark on the clay court that gave evidence that the ball had really landed inbounds. If he is quiet, the call will stand and he will advance to the semi-finals. Instead Roddick, who knew the ball was in, appealed to the chair umpire to overrule the line judge. The umpire went over and viewed the ball mark and reversed the call and the victory for Roddick. Fernando Verasco went on to win that game, the set, and the match. Andy Roddick’s integrity and sportsmanship had cost him the match, and most likely the Rome Masters championship.
It won’t be often that good sportsmanship will cost an individual or a team a victory as in the case of Andy Roddick. In a day and age where athletes are cutting corners to achieve success, it is refreshing to hear accounts of people like Roddick. Integrity and sportsmanship like this should be reinforced to athletes of all ages.
It is often said in the case of inappropriate behavior, “what goes around comes around.” Usually bad behavior will boomerang on its perpetrators. I think the same thing happens with integrity and sportsmanship. If you practice it, eventually you will reap the rewards of it. It’s like the boomerang; if you throw it out it will come back.
In the end, if you practice them both, integrity and sportsmanship will always pay.
That’s the way I see it From the Sidelines.